The Example Set by Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones Could Save the NFL

Dallas Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones is not playing around with the NFL protests currently plaguing the NFL.

I say plaguing, because the politicization is currently killing viewer participation of the sport. Ratings are down in double digits, and DirecTV is issuing refunds to angry customers no longer wishing to reward the NFL’s treatment of the country with their wallets.

But Jones presents something of a beacon of hope amongst the politically charged nonsense that keeps dominating sports news.

You’ll recall Jones knelt with his team before the National Anthem during their game with the Arizona Cardinals last month. The move by Jones was a show of solidarity with his team after Trump weighed in on the kneelers via Twitter. It was to show that the Cowboys, despite differing beliefs amongst the team, stood united.

Further, to show the team also still respected the country they live in, the kneeling did not continue through the anthem. Before the song started, Jones and his Cowboys got to their feet and stood respectfully.

The move even earned praise from Donald Trump, who called it “progress.”

And it was. Jones demonstrated two things. That viewpoints don’t have to result in division, and that these viewpoints don’t have to result in the alienation of their fans, nor disrespect to the nation. In terms of being a leader, Jones showed how to be one.

But as demonstrated during his team’s game against the Cardinals, Jones has a line. Recently, the Cowboys owner was asked about his players raising their fists during the National Anthem. Jones says he didn’t know anything about that, but should any of his players disrespect the flag, they’d find themselves riding the pine pony.

Jones also weighed in on Vice-President Mike Pence’s departure from Sunday’s Colt’s game, reiterating that while he believes in free expression, toleration of disrespect toward the country that gave him and his players so much won’t happen on his team, and shouldn’t happen in the NFL at all.

From Sports Day:

“We cannot in the NFL in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag,” Jones said. “I know the vice president did leave, because in his opinion the teams were. We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues, but there is no question in my mind that the National Football League and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag. Just so we’re clear.

“I’m saying our vice president, if in his opinion, there’s disrespect of the flag then he should express himself however he wants to say. He’s got rights, too. He felt that not standing for the flag is disrespectful. I do, too. The league in my mind should absolutely take the rules we’ve got on the books and make sure that we do not give the perception that we’re disrespecting the flag.”

Jones recognizes that there are issues, and has demonstrated that he’s open to players who share concerns about some of the social issues in this country. He also seems to believe in this country’s ability to unify and problem solve. He seems to recognize that division solves none of the problems these protesting players bring up and wants to turn from media spectacles and headline-grabbing to actually moving forward with solutions.

Maybe I’m just a biased Dallas resident, but Jones seems to have his finger on the pulse of the issue better than most within the NFL. If the sport wants to see its viewership return, and the dark cloud hanging over it to dissipate, the NFL would do well to follow Jones’ lead.

Keep the politics out of the game, keep the advocacy work within the player’s communities, and seek solutions, not division.